AKPABIO AND HIS MANY ASSESSORS
There is an immortal lesson from a mirror reflection: no man can truly know everything about himself. This position is evidently supported by some philosophers. To them, no man can confirm that he exists until another's existence is ascertained. Put another way, no man is an island and it takes the other man to complete the credible assessment of another man.
Hence, when Wikileaks, the American whistle-blower, drew attention to Akwa Ibom State , insisting that its governor is a man to watch - in terms of good governance deliverables - the nation woke to its expected function of monitoring. For some months now, keen attention has been focused on Governor Godswill Akpabio, the man behind the current story in the state.
In an unimaginable way, the result has been an undiluted and un-induced verdicts. While some newspapers report him as 'positively angry', others, like The Nation newspapers owned by the opposition ACN say he is 'impressive' with his projects!
In fact, it was President Goodluck Jonathan, who confirmed what many already knew, late last year. After crisscrossing the nooks and crannies of Akwa Ibom state to commission some projects, Jonathan publicly dismissed the various petitions, which had inundated his office alleging mismanagement of funds and poor governance against Akpabio. He said:
'I had been in this state when I was in OMPADEC. I had also been here twice when I was the deputy governor and I want to tell you that from the projects I have seen and commissioned, your governor (Akpabio) is not playing politics with projects'.
'From what I have seen so far, it is evident that Akwa Ibom State Government is driven by a singular commitment to enhancing the welfare and wellbeing of the people with true infrastructural development and the provision of critical social amenities, human capacity development' adding, 'The pace and level of development definitely demonstrates that the governor and his team are focused and committed to transforming Akwa Ibom State', he asserted.
Put differently, the performance of the governor, using public funds entrusted in his care was nothing less than excellent! Another national figure, former president Olusegun Obasanjo, after going round the state, even canvassed a law that would allow performing governors like Akpabio to be rotated to other less fortunate states - as a way of ensuring all round national development. Indeed, there is hardly any visitor to Akwa Ibom either on private or public capacity that has not commended Akpabio for his undeniable transformation renaissance. Yet, this uncommon transformation seems unabated as the state is currently commissioning over 716 new projects executed through the Inter-ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee.
These projects which range from roads to electricity, water supply to primary health centres and schools are basically people oriented and capable of curtailing rural urban migration. Commenting on the infrastructural transformation in the state last year, Bukola Saraki, then the governor of Kwara State and Chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum, NGF remarked, 'I think I have had the opportunity to go to many states, I have not seen anything like this. I am very impressed. All I can say is for the governor to keep it up…I congratulate the people of Akwa Ibom for believing in and co-operating with him. He has improved the economic activities of the state. He has particularly done massive projects. The airport, for instance, will help to open this part of the world to Nigeria and African.
Corroborating Saraki's assertion was Kingsley Mamabolo, South Africa High Commissioner to Nigeria who visited the state on May 23, 2010. According to him, 'It's a bit of surprise what I have seen. I think the infrastructural development is amazing. I've been to a number of states and I can say this is one of the best states that we have in Nigeria . I think it is just a demonstration of the potentials and that there's a lot that can be done if you have a committed leadership that is prepared to do work for the eradication of poverty of the people'.
Interestingly, Akpabio, in the face of vicious blackmail and character assassination, has combined deeper concentration, mental alertness and strength of character to achieve total success. In rewarding excellence in governance, therefore, the Niger Republic described Akpabio as rare. Represented by Moussa Alhadji Ibrahim, its ambassador to Nigeria, who presented the Humanitarian Services Award of Excellence to the governor on February 7, 2009 said: 'Your leadership qualities have positive impact in realization of your mission to build a peaceful, united and infrastructurally developed state - Akwa Ibom State…Your landmark achievements are also evident in every sector of the economy, most especially in the free education; health and the odious traffic in children. The construction of a novel and ultra modern digital library in your state is going to improve the education sector.
That the government of Niger Republic could bestow such an honour on Akpabio without solicitation, drowned negative thoughts and buttressed his meritorious ratings. Truly, no one can wish away the Ibom Airport; the e-library; five cottage hospitals; the free and compulsory education; five dualised federal highways; free healthcare; pipe-jacking underground drainage system; 210 urban roads; over 3,716 inter-ministerial projects, etc. No one can disconnect the people of Ika-Etim Ekpo- Afaha Obong and Iwukem who were cut off from other parts of the state through provision of bridges and other infrastructure.
No one can truly claim that more than 2000 communities are not connected to electricity in the state; and that Enen Nsit, cut off after the war, should not be reconnected to the state. While Akpabio's success story may be painful to a few, who expect state resources to be shared into private pockets, many Nigerians appreciate Akpabio's exploits and successes. They include the likes of Ibrahim Babangida, for former head of state and Alhaji Mua'zu Babangida Aliyu, governor of Niger State.
Commenting on Akpabio's administration, Babangida said: 'Unlike other states where the lamentations of poor revenue has taken supremacy, Governor Akpabio has been able to aggregate the collective aspirations of the people with programmes and policies that bear meaning and value to the ordinary people of the state…It takes a governor that has the interest of the people at heart to pursue such people-oriented programmes with their utility values. Without equivocation Governor Akpabio deserves our standing ovation and a big pat on the back'.
But in the words of Aliyu, 'I had visited Akwa Ibom six times before being elected Governor of Niger State and today as I landed at the Akwa Ibom International Airport , I saw that you are spending the money well and according to the rules and regulations. From what I have seen…your good projects speak for themselves…I was curious when I was invited to come and see some of the changes that I have been reading in the newspapers and believe me, I'm happy that I came. I'm happy that my friend and brother, the Governor has really done well. Because I know how Uyo used to look like.
And now that I have come, I've been able to go round and I've been able to see not only the development in infrastructure but also the general love that I saw coming from the people for their governor…And I noticed also that probably Akwa Ibom is one of the very few states that has allocated over 80 per cent of its budget to capital projects. Believe me, in many of the states over 50/60 really go on recurrent and emolument. And so to me, I feel that Akwa Ibom people are very lucky to have this young man who is doing extremely well'.
It is a principle of life, supported by the Scriptures, that 'in the mouth of two or more witnesses a matter is well established'. It is therefore inconceivable to think that in assessing Akpabio's performance in office, President Jonathan, Babangida, Obasanjo, Mua'zu Aliyu, Nigerien government, the media; the academia; the religious institutions; socio-political bodies, etc, can all be wrong. Like I once said, there is no appreciation that is too much for such a selfless leader - who has borne so much headache to achieve the uncommon transformation of his state!.
Ekwere writes from Nsit Ibom.